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Old 04-02-2017, 12:46 PM   #1
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2001 SMB E350 V10 Running out of gas early

I have a bit of a strange thing happening with my van, yesterday, it ran out of gas after 200 miles. It has a 40 gallon tank, although I have never seemed to use all of the gas in it. The gas gauge stopped working a few years ago, so I just keep track of the mileage. Usually around 350 miles I need to fill up.

So yesterday I parked it on a bit of an upslope, with the front of the van higher than the back, and the van wouldn't start. I had to put in eight gallons of gas (a story for another time) before it would start again. I filled it up, and it has run fine ever since.

So, I think that there is something going on with the pickup in the tank, although I'm not sure exactly how that is setup. I am pretty sure that the tank it in was not factory, as it is a single tank that holds 40 gallons (any ideas here?). Anyways, I don't know how a stock tank might be different from an aftermarket tank, but if there is any clue into how the pickup works, and what may have happened to it.

I would imagine that dropping the tank will be necessary to fix whatever the problem is, just trying to get an idea of how difficult that would be for a DIY'er, and if I could fix it when I got the tank out.

Or maybe it's something else entirely that might be causing this to happen.

Thanks in advance for any ideas.
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Old 04-02-2017, 01:03 PM   #2
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Not sure what's happening here, but when you filled up the tank, how much did you pump?
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Old 04-02-2017, 01:21 PM   #3
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Not sure what's happening here, but when you filled up the tank, how much did you pump?
11.5 gallons
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Old 04-02-2017, 02:56 PM   #4
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4x4 ? If so, which conversion? Tanks are modified to clear the transfer case.

Single tank - should have markings on the side if from Transfer Flow. Some pictures of the tank will be helpful. 40 gals would imply aftermarket as the stock tank was around 35.

The fuel pump is inside the tank. I have been told the fuel in the tank is used to dissipate the heat from the pump and running the tank low on fuel can lead to pump problems and specially when cold fuel is introduced at fillup. Could all be BS.

11.5 fill up would indicate a pick up problem. The fuel pump/gauge float/ and pick up are a single assy. This assy has to be modified, if a larger tank is installed, so the pick up is at the bottom of the new tank. If this extension modification failed, you would have a similar outcome of running out of fuel after the fuel level fell below the now far "shorter" pick up point. Just one idea of what might have caused your situation.

Also, where are you located ??
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Old 04-02-2017, 03:08 PM   #5
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My guess is fuel pump is dead/dying. Adding gas is coincidental fix, or maybe cooling which brings it back to life.
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Old 04-02-2017, 07:31 PM   #6
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4x4 ? If so, which conversion? Tanks are modified to clear the transfer case.

Single tank - should have markings on the side if from Transfer Flow. Some pictures of the tank will be helpful. 40 gals would imply aftermarket as the stock tank was around 35.

The fuel pump is inside the tank. I have been told the fuel in the tank is used to dissipate the heat from the pump and running the tank low on fuel can lead to pump problems and specially when cold fuel is introduced at fillup. Could all be BS.

11.5 fill up would indicate a pick up problem. The fuel pump/gauge float/ and pick up are a single assy. This assy has to be modified, if a larger tank is installed, so the pick up is at the bottom of the new tank. If this extension modification failed, you would have a similar outcome of running out of fuel after the fuel level fell below the now far "shorter" pick up point. Just one idea of what might have caused your situation.

Also, where are you located ??
It is a Quigley conversion. After doing an image search, it is definitely an aftermarket tank. I will try to get some photos. I am in Orange County CA.

Thanks for the tips. This sounds pretty likely.
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Old 04-02-2017, 08:25 PM   #7
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My guess is fuel pump is dead/dying. Adding gas is coincidental fix, or maybe cooling which brings it back to life.
I agree. If you haven't put a fuel pump on it or know if it's ever been replaced I would buy one and have it ready when you or a mechanic drops the tank to investigate. I have had trouble with more than one aftermarket tank and fillup/venting issues. I have also had an SMB with a failing fuel pump which acted up for THOUSANDS of miles before I figured out what the problem was. Every time I filled up it would cool the pump and run great for a long time, sometimes an entire tank.

I would try this first. Go to a station and very slowly pump gas until it shuts off. Don't go by the first click off. I could pump for 5 more minutes slowly in my last SMB. After you do this, if it holds a lot more than you thought, pay attention for any smell outside or in which would confirm a venting/sealing issue.

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Old 04-02-2017, 09:48 PM   #8
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I agree. If you haven't put a fuel pump on it or know if it's ever been replaced I would buy one and have it ready when you or a mechanic drops the tank to investigate. I have had trouble with more than one aftermarket tank and fillup/venting issues. I have also had an SMB with a failing fuel pump which acted up for THOUSANDS of miles before I figured out what the problem was. Every time I filled up it would cool the pump and run great for a long time, sometimes an entire tank.

I would try this first. Go to a station and very slowly pump gas until it shuts off. Don't go by the first click off. I could pump for 5 more minutes slowly in my last SMB. After you do this, if it holds a lot more than you thought, pay attention for any smell outside or in which would confirm a venting/sealing issue.

I have noticed the smell of gas after arriving to my destinations as of late. Could there be a leak that is allowing evaporation?
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Old 04-03-2017, 09:33 AM   #9
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I doubt it's evaporation but I'm betting venting is part of your problem. I'd definitely pull the tank and see what's going on with a new fuel pump for good measure.

Mine cost me $700 and two days of a trip lost in the 110 degree weather of Page, Arizona.

I would've much rather had it done at home but didn't know that was the problem.

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Old 04-03-2017, 09:46 AM   #10
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The fuel pump/sending unit is not difficult to replace. $300-ish part, drop the tank, replace unit, put tank back in. There are fuel line release tools at Harbor Freight that work fine. Nothing complicated for a DIY'er.
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